Buffy The Vampire Slayer
'Wolves at the Gate' Part II of IV
Script: Drew Goddard, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy, Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Cover by: Jon Foster
Page 01: We see an old man complaining about feeling so alone. It is fifteen minutes earlier... than what, we don't know....
Page 02: A purple little person refers to the old man as Master. He has long, unkempt grey hair, shaggy beard and finger nails in serious need of a trimming....
Dialog suggests this is Dracula. The servant is complaining that he's not changed out of his robe in a month and that he's vomited all over it. By implication, he's also been drinking quite heavily of rubbing alcohol!
Page 03: The little servant confirms that this is Dracula in such a disheveled state. While the servant is trying to get Dracula to pull himself together, he spots something out of the windows. He tells his servant that he would like a razor...
Outside, we see Xander's coptor coming in for a landing on the grounds.
Page 04: When Dracula opens the door, he looks like his normal and dashing self. We pick up where the last issue left off.
And, Dracula insults Renee by referring to her as Xander's "Moor" and suggests she can wait in the stables (the suggestion being that she's a servant if not a slave).
Page 05: Xander tells him that Renee is with him and not a servant, so he invites them both in. He tells him he'll order them food from the kitchen, before mentioning that Xander will surely need to eat before changing into his manservant bloomers -
Xander embarrassed, is sure to make a point with Renee that he's never worn 'bloomers'. He also suddenly wonders if she shouldn't stay outside... perhaps to look for the Albanian boy running loose in the hedge maze. She says no.
Commentary: This whole thing is played for laughs, and it is funny, except for the part about the boy in the maze. It feels really wrong for Xan not to take that seriously, considering his history with Dracula and the fact that we're talking about, you know, DRACULA - with a small boy - who he has already mentioned he needs to get to hunting before his blood gets ruined by the adrenaline....
Yeah. If you want to play Dracs for laugh (and Buffy vs. Dracula was basically a comedy episode) then I would suggest not including heroes being callous about the upcoming death of a little boy....
I do like the look on Dracula's face as he turns away though. You can definitely get the sense that he's yanking Xander's chain on purpose with this outrageous talk of Renee as servant/slave, the boy in the maze waiting, and Xander resuming his duties as manservant.
Page 06: Back in Scotland, with this new situation trumping whatever Andrew was there for, he gives the Slayers a lesson in Dracula - in the way only he could, dressed in the original outfit warn by George Hamilton in 'Love at First Bite' (1979) - which I have and will eventually review.
The Slayers want to know if Xander is under Dracula's control and Andrew admits they're uncertain as to how much hold he still possesses over him. He tells them that they're more friends than servant/master now.
Commentary: Okay, this may explain why Dracula's not been attacked. It still doesn't explain joking about the Albanian boy hunt, though. And, I find it completely at odd with how we left Xan/Drac in 'Buffy vs. Dracula' that they'd be exchanging letters... or that they'd be anything other than deadly enemies. I'm going to assume we'll learn something here before I rant about continuity and out of character-ness and yadda, yadda, yadda....
One thing I want to point out though, is the chalkboard in panel two... I'm going to return to this panel in a bit.
Page 07: Andrew continues his lecture and we find out that Xan taught Dracula to ride a motorbike. (This is a throwaway line, but will actually be brought back up by Dracula in a few pages in some more amusement.) Andrew goes to write 'motorbiking' as one of Dracula's powers when he overhears a Slayer complaining about the quality of the lecture.
Amusingly, she says it's his worse one - even worse than the one they had to sit through on the Glaive (the magic good guy throwing star/boomerang in 'Krull' (1983) - which I do not currently have, but may buy at some future point).
We also discover that Xander spent a few months after Anya's death in S7- Chosen with Dracula! He needed some 'guy time' according to Andrew and as one Slayer so appropriately puts it....
"And -- so Buffy just allowed him to go hang out with Dracula?"
Yes, apparently. And, apparently, Xan did decide this was where he needed to be....
Andrew mentions that Dracula is fond of Xander and they have a unique relationship - which we'll also return to in a bit -
Commentary: But, right now: WTF?!
Where to start on this turn of events? I mean this is such a twist I don't know what to make of it. Xander is heartbroken by Anya's loss and he ends up at Dracula's?! And the Count, who had found him to be 'strange and offputting' and used him as a tool to go after Buffy not only didn't immediately fang him, but he accepted him as a house guest, became fond of him and started an ongoing friendship with him?! And, Buffy didn't think any of this insane?! Xander didn't find any of this insane?! And so now Dracula is allowed to chase kidnapped children around his property?! I repeat, W.T.F.?
(Future Me - Would it shock you to learn this is not adequately explained? Would it surprise you that I can actually live with that - just because this arc is so well written and Dracula makes an intriguing character. I'm feeling very forgiving. STORMWREATH calls this a crack!fic; I certainly agree that this development is crack!plot - now, either you're going to be able to just roll with it, or you're not. I've chosen to roll.)
I also find it fascinating that the Slayers assumed that Xander would need or want Buffy's permission to go anywhere in the first place. One, I think it points out the amount of personal authority that these girls are placing in Buffy, which just adds an uncomfortably military tone to where the Slayers are at right now, adding some more justification to General Voll's contention that Buffy is a 'charasmatic, fanatical leader'. Secondly, it points to the fact that the Slayers DO think of themselves as an army with an heirarchy in place, which reflects back on Lady Gigi's charges that Buffy thinks of herself as a Queen of Slayers. And Thirdly, despite being an unpowered man, the Slayers also look on Xander has a fellow soldier who is subservient to Buffy - rather than as one of her friends who has chosen to direct their activities as as equal to Buffy. I'm not sure exactly how to take this point....
Also, I have to point out an artwork mistake: Andrew's lips in the last panel have suddenly turned dark blue - as if he's wearing lipstick to go along with the whole gothic vampire look he is sporting. Unfortunately, it only appears in this panel - everywhere else his lips are normal.
Page 08: Meanwhile, in the Slayer control center, Buffy is being told that they've traced a lead on their thieving vampires. Buffy finds out from an operative in the Japan branch that they've found a vampire matching Buffy's description of her attacker to Tokyo.
Page 09: Aiko reports that thanks to some asking around (with her battle axe) she found the perps. Amusingly, the 'Kabuki Demons' are huge, green skinned demons with tiny feet and KABUKI MAKEUP.
Commentary: I feel so badly for the surviving Kabuki, though. Look at it pathetically sitting haunched up behind Aiko. Even with her back turned, the demon isn't attacking her - it's just sobbing away to itself, instead.
Buffy orders recon - but no engagement with their targets.
Page 10: There is some tension between Satsu and Buffy when the latter goes back to treating the former like another one of the soldiers. Discounting her suggestion, and telling her to follow orders, we see Satsu looking a bit forlorn and Willow frowning over Buffy's shortness with her.
Buffy is busy worrying about Xander right now though, having not heard from him since his return to Dracula's castle.
Page 11: Dracula, Xander and Renee are sitting at a table having tea. On the wall in the background is some sort of hideous wall hanging. I swear it is an homage to the 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' (1992) - have it, will review it.
But, the thing I want to focus on here is the hilarious dialog in full:
Xan: This tea is delicious, Master.
Drac: Thank you, Manservant. Butterfield (the purple guy) prepared it himself. He's proving to be an excellent manservant. The best I've ever had. Truly, I've never been happier.
Xan (small frown): Good. I mean... That's great. I'm glad to see you're doing well. (Except we know he wasn't until he saw Xan arriving.)
Drac: You've lost weight.
Xan: Can you tell? I've been trying to exercise more.
Renee is following all this with unbelieving looks on her face.
Drac: Yes, it suits you.
Xan: Thanks. You look good too.
Drac: Oh, you're just saying that because I complimented you.
Xan: No -- I'm not! I promise.
Drac: I can't see myself in mirrors. I fear my best days are behind me.
Xan: No -- you're more handsome than ever.
Drac: Do you really think so?
Renee puts her head in her hand: Oh, for the love of God....
Commentary: Now, I am fully willing to admit that since I'm a) gay and b) always wanted to see Spike and Xander make out, that I could be accused of wanting to see slash where it doesn't exist. BUT C'MON!
And, keep this scene in mind along with the blackboard panel because these aren't the only places where we are being given some very heavy hints that Dracula has a romantic attachment to Xander Harris. Now, I'm not suggesting that they've been romantic - though I loathe the term, I'm sure you're all aware of 'bromance'. I think Xan and Dracula's "unique relationship" is definitely a non-consummated, non-gay type of romance between these two characters. And, since Dracula is a very old vampire who has been around a long time, I find it hard to believe that the hints we're given are anything other than telling us that Dracula finds himself falling for our heroic Buffy-friend....
And I find that funny, scary, sexy, disturbing and great all in one!
Page 12: Renee has finally had enough of this and demands that they get down to the reason they're there. Dracula glares daggers at her and keeps referring to her as Xander's "Moor", in what I can only take to be a pique of jealousy over her presence. He denies to Xander that his powers could be stolen, so Renee accuses him of selling them to the highest bidder.
He takes exception to this and threatens her with swarming bees.
Page 13: Dracula again insists to Xander that he is mistaken that some two bit group of vampires have copied his powers. He tells the two mortals that they are... and this is a quote... "part of ancient magics. I risked my very SOUL to attain them."
Commentary: His soul. Interesting turn of phrase? Referring to his demonic soul? Perhaps. But, I have another possibility. We already know that Vlad Dracul was very involved with the Gypsies (at least fictional Vlad, who became a vampire) and we know what sort of arrogantly proud man both the human Vlad and the vampire Vlad are... I submit that Vlad Dracul did not lose his soul upon being a vampire, but in fact is under the same Gypsy magic that Angel is under. Vlad gets to keep his human soul, so long as he doesn't experience a moment of true happiness. In fact, it's possible that he isn't under any such restriction at all (since presumably his condition would not be cast out of anger as a curse, but as a gift from the gypsies who served him). It's possible that he's just plain the first vampire with a soul completely changing Buffy history as it involves Angel and Spike!
I've always liked this explanation for Dracula because I've never saw Vlad as somebody who would become a soulless copy of himself in order to have immortality. He was too proud, too arrogant, too powerful to have chosen to give that all up to be a demon. This is why in the spanderverse version of Buffy vs. Dracula, I have Tara realize during their final confrontation with Dracula that he is in fact Vlad.
It feels right that of any human who becomes immortal, he would be the one to ensure that he'd actually be here to enjoy it.
Anyway, Dracula goes on to rant that no two-bit vampires could come along and take his powers when he starts to pause in his rant. He puts his face in his hand with an "Oh balls". He asks if it's not true that the vampires they suspect of using his powers might not happen to be of Asian origin....
Page 14: In Tokyo, two of our vampire raiders are talking. They're discussing an upcoming spell that the woman of their family will need to focus on, interfering in her desire to join them during the slaughter that is upcoming.
Page 15: The lead vampire mentions that Kumiko (apparently the vampire-girl/witch) can have a specific body when he's done with it. They are speaking about Aiko, who is following them. Unfortunately, they're aware of being tracked.
The lead vampire pulls out some sort of red pendant and tells the other they'll give her something to see....
Page 16: Back in Dracula's castle, he is throwing an enraged fit. He tells them that he might have accidentally gambled his shape shifting powers when he was drunk on rubbing alcohol. But, now he feels he was surely cheated because they had a witch with them. He offers he was trying to win a new motorcycle (recalling Andrew's observation that Xan has taught Vlad to ride during his previous stay).
Xander is uncomfortable by Dracula's yelling about "those filthy, yellow swine" because of the underlying racism. He mentions he doesn't remember Drac being so racist (what with the Moor talk too).
Commentary: One wonders if Xander didn't notice it before because Renee wasn't there specifically. Also, I want to point out panel three - we have another visual shout out to the Francis Ford Coppola movie as we see the red armor from the opening of that film propped up here.
Page 17: Xander asks if Dracula will come and help them get the Scythe back. Dracula responds by making it clear he's not going to help him or Buffy or the Slayers. He loathes Buffy and her whole army. He also tells him that the next time "your Moor" smarts off, he'll slit her throat for her... but nobody steals from Dracula.
He grabs a huge sword.
Page 18: In the meanwhile, Buffy is on her way to Tokyo with the Scotland Slayer contingent. Willow is speaking to Satsu - she's trying to smooth over Buffy's basically blowing her off earlier. Willow tries to get Satsu to understand that Buffy isn't like the rest of them - she has more on her shoulders 24/7/365 and that makes her always alone and carrying the weight of the world all the time.
Page 19: Willow sympathizes with Satsu about Buffy's also not being "A dyke?"; "I was gonna say 'friend of Sappho', but okay, whatever the kids are saying these days, I'm hip, I'm with it."
She warns Satsu not to get her hopes up and then jokes with her about what Buffy turned out to be like in bed. To Satsu shocked look and funny exclamation, Will tells her to spill - did she make her "shoe-sale noise"?
We don't find out.
Page 20: Back in Tokyo, Aiko is drawn rather easily into a dark alley. She sees the pendant on the ground and picks it up. This is a bad move. The vampire-witch has the Scythe in her hands. She chants something and a beam fires into the pendant, which then zaps Aiko.
Page 21: The leader vampire is immediately on her and punches her into a stack of crates (as we know from tv, there are always crates stacked randomly in alleys here in the States. We can also see here that there is a similar phenomena in Japan). Aiko looks shocked.
Leader vamp points out that he's broken her jaw and laments that she won't be able to tell him now what it's like to have returned to being a normal girl....
He sinks his fangs into her throat.
Commentary: And we learn exactly what the Scythe is to be used for....
Page 22: With this diabolical 'beta test' completed, Lead Vampire orders the plan moved forward. We see the vampire-witch with the Scythe looking very pleased. In the background, on top of a building is a giant version of the pendant just used to strip Aiko of her powers.
The Good: The scenes between Xander, Dracula and Renee are terrifically funny. But Dracula retains his sense of menace when he's angry, too.
During Andrew's lecture, I love that under Dracula's "Known Powers" he has written, "Romantic Undertones (technically not a power)" which along with the apparent jealousy over Xander bringing Renee with him to the castle and the scene at the tea table - well, I can't help but find that the slashiness is very deliberate - and amusing - and kinda sexy.
I like Willow's observations when she's talking to Satsu about her tryst with Buffy and her teasing.
I really love these bad vampires - they're a lot more menacing than we're used to seeing and I like the plot a lot.
The Bad: I wish they hadn't included the whole hunting children throwaway at Dracula's. It's an unpleasant idea that you really can't take lightly, and so flies in the face of the jokey tone that the whole encounter between Xan and Drac is supposed to have.
Other Thoughts: I also have minor problems with Xander and Dracula having any sort of relationship in the first place, but because of the strength of the characterizations and storyline, I'm able to just flow with it.
The Score: I think this is the strongest story of Season 8 thus far (future me - I like it the most as well) and this second part of the arc is very, very good. It's not at all a 'filler' the way some middle-arc stories are *cough cough, Spike after the Fall #2, cough cough*.
4.25 out of 5.
Go to Third Issue of Arc Review instead.